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12 February 2003


The African Union, the continent's premier regional organization, has responded to the December 17-19, 2002, Western Hemisphere Diaspora Forum by amending its charter to include the participation of the African Diaspora. This action occurred during the First Extraordinary Summit of the African Union held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 3, but it has just been made official with the completion of the organization's legal review.

The AU Executive Council, comprised of foreign ministers from member states, recommended the following amendment to the charter, which was approved by the heads of states and governments to indicate the African Union's intention to: "Invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora, as an important part of the continent, in the building of the African Union."

The December Diaspora forum was co-sponsored with the Foundation for Democracy in Africa. As a result of that meeting, the Western Hemisphere African Diaspora Network was established with the Foundation elected to serve as the coordinating body of the new organization. The network will be managed by the Foundation, in collaboration with the eight working groups. Moreover, the AU intends to open an office from which the organization's liaison to the network will operate. At some future date, this charter change could result in official Diaspora representation within the AU structure.

"The swift action of the African Union on including the Diaspora in its formation and future operations is a testament to the spirit and enthusiasm demonstrated by the participants in the December forum," said Fred Oladeinde, President of the Foundation. "His Excellency Amara Essy, Interim Chairman of the African Union Commission, and other top AU officials have repeatedly said how impressed they were by the people who participated in the forum in Washington. We greatly appreciate the efforts of the network participants and look forward to a fruitful collaboration with them and the others who we hope will join in the weeks and months ahead."

More than 400 persons attended the opening Town Hall Meeting, while more than 100 persons took part in the deliberations that produced recommendations to the AU on the establishment of an ongoing linkage with the Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. Thousands of others participated through streaming video of the forum.

A web site for the network currently is under construction and will be linked to the Foundation web site: The Foundation web site currently contains the final report from the December forum.